by Sandy Thomas
You heard the old cliche, "Jack of all trades, master of none." In the voice-over industry, it pays to be master of all trades. Some might disagree, and in some cases or professions, it is only possible to specialize in one area. In the medical field, you're not a podiatrist/orthopedic, and attorneys usually practice a specific kind of law. In the voice-over industry, you'd better get off your horse if you plan on making it big, unless your name is Don Lonfontain. He's the guy you hear on all those movie and TV trailers--you know, the deep, ballsy voice that sounds like God spent an extra three hours adding a bonus amount of testosterone and resonance. He makes millions doing one read. Guys like Don and James Earl Jones are the rare ponies. The rest of us have to be jacks, do it all without exceeding our limits.
Mastering several reads has enabled me to make a living in this business so far. Reading a commercial for Potamkin Toyota is radically different than the read you would use for an international spot for Pepsi. One is selling cars. It requires a retail read, hard sell. The Pepsi read will need you to sound cool sounding, hip, unlike what you did for the leading neighborhood car dealer. I did both jobs because I was able to read two ways.
You perfect several reads by practicing and then practice again. The only way to realize if your second or third read is good is to put it on a demo and send it out. If you are paid by a client to perform them, then you know they are worthwhile.
Let's face it. You'll have strengths in certain areas and be weaker in others. Some guys have the ability to perform sweeper work for radio. Some don't. Other guys do great character work, hard sell, industrial work. These are all specialized areas in the voice-over field that demand a different attack when reading. It takes time to master. Now I'm not saying that you need to master it all to be successful in voice-overs. I'm just saying the more areas you dominate, the more work you'll be considered for. And in a business that is fiercely competitive and full of stellar talent, it pays to get off your pony.